Posts Tagged ‘honesty’

Deuteronomy 25:13-16

Honest Weights & Measures

My stepdaughter, the middle child of my three girls, only three months younger than my oldest daughter, works in retail. She is the general manager of one of a chain of popular women’s beauty products stores. She loves it. She loves the managing of a store-full of employees, the purchasing and logistic of product supply, the marketing and so on. She, I think, even loves the wacky hours and holiday work. Some people are just built for retail and Michelle is so. One of the things that I found odd though when talking about retail with her was that they do what they can to prevent theft (shoplifting) but they are not, by policy, to pursue someone once they get outside the store with stolen property. It is simply part of the business in retail.

 

Inventory loss due to shoplifting, employee or supplier fraud and administrative errors cost U.S. retailers an estimated $44 billion in 2014, according to a survey by the National Trade Federation (NRF) and the University of Florida. The survey, which during March and April interviewed 100 senior loss prevention executives from various retail sectors, found inventory shrinkage, or loss, averaged 1.38 percent of overall retail sales, which stood at $3.19 trillion in 2014. Shoplifting accounted for the largest portion of the loss at 38 percent, followed by employee theft at 34.5 percent, administrative and paperwork theft at 16.5 percent, vendor fraud or error at 6.8 percent and unknown loss at 6.1 percent, according to this study. Wal-Mart, the retailing giant whose annual gross revenues rival some small nations, alone, loses $3 Billion a year to shoplifting and employee theft. Theft is just part of the game in retail and guess who pays for the additional costs created by theft, you got it, the overwhelming majority of shoppers – the honest shopper.

 

Fraud and dishonesty (theft in all its forms, embezzlement, kickbacks, dishonest gains, etc.) cost our American economy over $200 Billion annually. Retail losses are only a quarter of the dishonesty cost in the American economy. Law enforcement agencies are having to reallocate resources or add staff to combat the growing wave of unethical business behaviors. It seems that the problem has become so rampant that it is simply an accepted part of business. You have to build in a certain percentage of your sales prices to cover the cost of fraud and theft whether you are selling merchandise or you are selling services. Cheating on our taxes, both at the personal and corporate levels, cost the federal government an estimated $300 Billion in lost tax revenues. Even churches are not immune to theft and fraud. In the United States, the estimate of the extent of fraud against churches perpetrated by employees works out to around $9 Billion annually. US churches spend more on theft and embezzlement than they do on community outreach activities at the local church level.

 

It is the lack of honesty that seems to permeate business dealings these days that I thought of when I read today’s passage. Let’s read it now together:

 

13 Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. 14 Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 16 For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

 

God’s displeasure at dishonest business dealing is stressed throughout the Old Testament (Lev. 19:35, 36; Prov. 11:1; 16:21; 20:10, 23; and Mic. 6:11). The Bible has nothing good to say about those who cheat or are dishonest in their dealings with others. God is the embodiment of truth, and dishonesty is a insult both to God and our neighbor. This was a law of commerce dictating that you could not have one set of scales where a pound, say, equaled only 14 ounces and another where it equaled, say, the normal 16 ounces, for the purpose of cheating people. It teaches a broader principle that we must be fair and consistent in every area of life. We must have integrity in our dealings with other people.

 

How are we to live in a world like this where honesty and virtue seem to be liabilities to an employee? There is no advantage on earth as it descends generation by generation into the world mentioned in Revelation. There is absolutely no advantage. In fact, it is a liability to be honest in today’s world. It often angers me that I have more in taxes taken out on me than some people preachers make just out of seminary serving their first church. It angers me that I get back about ¼ of what I pay in taxes while others cheat like crazy and get big refunds. There is no advantage on earth for being honest.

 

However, there is eternal significance. There is eternal advantage in being honest. God is truth. Truth is honesty. To be honest is to be like one of the qualities of our eternal Father. We most likely all have moments where our flesh kicks in and we are dishonest too many times to count. However, we should purposely try to root our penchant for dishonesty and the Holy Spirit works on us about that very fact. When we can be honest when no one is looking is practice for being honest when everyone is. By being different from a world where theft and fraud are a natural part of life, we draw people unto Jesus Christ. By being ethical people in an unethical world, we draw people unto Christ. When we have opportunities “to take advantage of the system” but do not, we draw people unto Christ. When you can pad your expense account (and nobody will know) but do not, we are learning the discipline of honesty in our dealings with others.

 

We want to please God first and foremost. He will honor our integrity. He will bless it either here on earth or in eternity or both. He will bless it for sure. God has no deception, no lies, no untruth, no unethical qualities. We want to please Him by being truthful and honest. Second, as Christ followers, we are commanded to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ. The best way to do that is to be examples of Christ. Honesty, integrity and ethical behavior are rarities in our world today. The way we live our lives with honesty, integrity and ethical behavior make people ask questions. Being little Christs as we are, we must stand out as different so that people will look at us and ask questions. That is our opportunity to speak of the different way of living known as a relationship with Jesus Christ. Through our accepting Him as our Savior and He sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, we are changed. We are different. We have a different agenda of loving God and loving people. Being honest and forthright in our dealings with other people is how we love God and love people. Let us be quirky and different. Let our integrity and honesty draw people unto that which is so different from the common ways of man today.

 

There is no advantage in this world of being honest. There is an out of this world, eternal reason to be honest – to please God and to draw people unto Christ. Be different. Be honest. Stand out. Let people see your integrity so that they will be drawn unto Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 22:1-3

Returning Lost Property

Have you ever been walking along the sidewalk and you see a $20 bill laying on the ground? You quietly pick it up and quickly stuff in your pocket and look around suspiciously to see if anyone saw you pick it up. Assessing that this not some Candid Camera or Punk’d  prank, you quickly walk along thinking of how fortunate you are. Have you ever wondered what happened to the person who lost the $20 bill? Or did you just think of how fortunate you are and spend it on something frivolous?

 

We have all found money before in public places and the money has no identification with it. What did you do? What’s the right thing to do? What do you do if you say find a camera in a chair at a public train station or in the back of a taxi? What do you do? Cash or property, what do you do? What if it were a significant amount of money (say a wad of $100 bills rolled up in a rubber band) or some fancy, expensive item that a person would truly miss? What would you do?

 

Elena and I had this issue happen to us while we were on our first (and her only) visit to Japan in February 2010 (the ultimate parent company of Fujikura America, Inc. that I work for here in the States is Fujikura, Ltd. Headquartered in Tokyo). I have been to Japan two other times after that, but on this first visit to Tokyo for my job, we had a profound experience with regard to personal property. Within the first 24 hours that we were in Japan, Elena lost her digital camera in Tokyo Station (the largest train station in Japan, and probably one of the largest in Asia). The night before, after we had landed at Narita Airport and had taken the one of the buses to Tokyo Station’s bus terminal and then gotten a cab to take us to our hotel the financial district of downtown Tokyo, I had lost my own digital camera in the backseat of that cab. Neither of us even noticed it when we got out of the cab. When Elena lost her camera at Tokyo station, she was being escorted by one of the ladies from the corporate finance group at Fujikura, Ltd. around the sites of the city. So, they were on and off the subways all day. Elena did not realize that she had left her camera in one of the waiting area seats at Tokyo Station until several hours had passed.

 

Here we are, both of us losing our digital cameras (which were pretty cool gadgets back in 2010), within 24 hours of each other, in Tokyo. Tokyo, as of 2016, is the largest urban area in terms of population in the world. It has overtaken Mexico City as the world’s largest urban area. Back in 2010, it was still a very large city, the second largest behind Mexico City. To give you scale, Tokyo’s urban area has about 25 million people – that’s three times larger than New York City. It’s big! Really big! It is a mass of humanity and steel. In the mass of humanity and steel, what do you think happened? In a faceless, nameless, anonymous mass of one of the top two population centers in the world, what would you expect? In America, even here in the South (where we pride ourselves on our honor and on the reputation of our families), you would never see those cameras again. In New York City, you could fohget about dit! Nowhere in America, rural or urban, would I have expected to find those cameras again. However, the people of Japan are just different I guess. In each case, the finders of our cameras (the taxicab driver with my camera, and some anonymous stranger with Elena’s camera, both turned in the cameras to the lost and found, one at the cab company, the other at the lost and found office at Tokyo Station). Both of us got our cameras back! Un-wait for it-believable. That was the most amazing thing I had ever heard of. I thanked God for the honor of those people involved that I did not even know. I then began to question myself as to what I would have done in the same situation?

 

What would I do and what would you do? That memory of the honor of two Japanese people in the largest city in the world came rushing back when I read through the passage for today, Deuteronomy 22:1-3. Let’s read it now together:

 

22 If you see your fellow Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to its owner. 2 If they do not live near you or if you do not know who owns it, take it home with you and keep it until they come looking for it. Then give it back. 3 Do the same if you find their donkey or cloak or anything else they have lost. Do not ignore it.

 

In this passage, the Isrealites were to care for and return lost animals and any other possessions to their rightful owners. The of the world, by contrast, has the philosophy of “finders keepers, losers weepers” for the most part. As children of God, we are expected to go beyond the pale to return things that don’t belong to us to their rightful owners. What if that wad of cash that you found was somebody’s down payment on a surgery that their spouse needed and they did not have any insurance. Maybe, they did have insurance but the spouse has cancer and the medical bills, even with insurance, are massive. What right do we have to claim that money because of a momentary second of carelessness by the rightful owner. We should always be thinking of others rather than just ourselves. We should have honor enough to try to figure out who the rightful owner is.

 

We can inform authorities that we have property that has been found, leave our contact information, and pray that the rightful owner contacts us. If they don’t contact you within say 30 days, then, contribute the money to your church or a charity in full. These are just practical things that we can do. You don’t even have to be a Christ follower to do these things.

 

However, as Christ followers, we should be setting the example of doing the right thing even when no one is looking. We should be living lives marked by integrity and consistency of that integrity. We should be the standard setters for ethical behavior. People often scratch their head as to why all the events that LifeSong holds on campus are free to the public. They wonder why we would do that. It is because we, as Christ followers, set the standard for uncommon love and uncommon generosity and uncommon integrity. We do these things, like returning lost property to the rightful owner (when we could have easily pocketed the money or property), because we want to draw people unto Christ and we do it in ways that make people want to know this Jesus. It’s all about him. How well do you represent Him? How well do I?

 

Amen and Amen.